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Razaq Okoya: The journey from apprentice-tailor to billionaire business mogul

One of Razaq’s motivation for going into business was that he desired to be a landlord.

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Razaq Okoya: The journey from apprentice-tailor to billionaire business mogul

The privileged position of founders and Chief Executives has almost become a reserve of degree and MBA holders, but a few like Chief Razaq Akanni Okoya have proven with their stories that grit, hardwork and initiative can make a man successful in business, even without executive degrees.

Razaq Akanni Okoya was born on January 12, 1940, to Tiamiyu Ayinde and Alhaja Idiatu Okoya. Despite being born in Lagos state, he did not start schooling on time.

Razaq attended Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Oke-Popo, Lagos, and this ended up providing his only formal education.

READ MORE: 10 Business mistakes to avoid post-COVID-19

Lawyer, teacher or businessman?

With a tailor for a father, Razaq spent most of his after-school hours learning the trade. He would run errands for his father, helping him get supplies and mending some clothes. They made on-demand clothing, bicycle seat covers and other clothing accessories for sale.

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With this apprentice lifestyle, Razaq became an expert tailor before he finished his primary education. While many thought that Razaq chose to become a tailor because his father was one, the industrialist explained later in an interview that the choice came after much thought and considerations.

He had considered becoming a lawyer or a teacher, but also wanted to become wealthy. He also observed the society around him and saw that some of the wealthiest people were businessmen.

“While in school, I could see my teacher in worn out and often shabby clothes and at the same time, I could see well-dressed businessmen at Dosunmu Street, the then heart of business in Lagos. My father was a very good tailor with a brand new car, a Chrysler for that matter, five houses and a lot of apprentices, which could be an inspiration for a young man,” he recalled.

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Following his father out on visits to clients in Ikoyi, he had also met the likes of Chief Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, the father of Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and other wealthy businessmen clients.

He decided then that he wanted to become a businessman. He was already 17 years old before he finished primary school, and did not want to waste any more time on formal education.

READ: 10 side businesses to sustain your professional career

A business-teenager

At 17, an age where he could hardly be called a business ‘man’, Razaq had saved up £20 (twenty pounds) from mending shirts and trousers in his father’s shop and he decided to start a small scale trading business.

Very few traders had access to manufacturers at this time and so they had to go through middlemen, but Razaq stumbled upon a product catalogue of a manufacturer based in Japan that produced tailoring materials such as buttons, ribbons, zip fasteners, etc and decided to place a direct order. When he totaled the figures, he discovered that it would cost him £70, meaning that he needed an additional £50.

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With his father’s permission, his mother loaned him the amount interest-free and he placed the order. The products barely landed before they were sold out, as it did not take traders much time to realise that they were of better quality than the ones already in the market.

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The quick turnovers gave Razaq the financing he needed to expand the business and increase the orders. With lots of profits coming in, he completed his first house at Surulere by the age of 19, and by the age of 21, he had three more houses in the same location.

READ: Jumia sees competition from startups in growing African e-commerce market

Turning his wife’s fancy into a business

Being relatively comfortable, Razaq got married quite early. His first wife, Kuburat Okoya, like many other women, had an unusual fancy for jewellery and spent quite a lot of money purchasing them.

At this time, Razaq was considering going into manufacturing and reasoned that if he could produce jewellery with the raw materials available in Nigeria, there was a ready market for it since the demand was high.

On one of his trips out of the country, he imported some jewellery manufacturing machines along with some experts and started manufacturing the jewellery at ridiculously low costs. This marked the birth of the Jewellery Manufacturing Arm of Eleganza Group.

READ: 5 ways to raise funding for your business

Expectedly, the products all sold out and the business broke even very early. The young company practically found itself choked with demand for its products and this set it firmly on its feet.

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Razaq then decided to venture into shoe manufacturing, but started out by paying factories in Italy to produce the shoes so that he could import the finished products. This moved on smoothly for a while until the company defaulted on one of his orders, using his advance payment to settle other bills instead.

Furious over this disappointment, he imported the necessary machines and brought in experts to train his workers; thus bringing about the Shoe Manufacturing arm of the group.

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The company has grown over the years and now employs thousands of Nigerians across its factories where it manufactures coolers, chairs, soaps, weave-on for ladies, cutlery, electric fans, plastics, etc.

The Eleganza group is now headed by his youngest wife, Mrs Shade Okoya as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer while he is Chairman of the group.

RAO Property Investment Company

One of Razaq’s motivation for going into business was that he desired to be a landlord. He recalled in an interview that he noticed that most business people at the time were landlords, but “if you found a man wearing a suit and tie living in those areas in those days, he must have rented an apartment there.”

This wish always remained with him, and as soon as he had sufficient money to, he delved into real estate. By age 34, he acquired four hectares of land on Ikoyi Crescent, and by 40 years, he had two high-rise buildings standing in his name.

Years after, he set up the RAO Property Investment Company as the vehicle to drive his real estate dreams. A lover of good houses, Razaq saw this as an opportunity to provide good housing for people.

READ: 10 ways to save and make more investments

The company constructed and maintains the Oluwa Ni Shola Estate at Lekki-Ajah Expressway, which is sometimes described as an expatriates’ estate because of the high number of expatriates living there.

The luxurious estate is well equipped with uninterrupted power and water supply, marble floors, central air-conditioning, sauna, lush gardens, billiard room, tennis court, swimming pools, expensive sculptures and others, typically mirroring the type of life Okoya always dreamt of.

Through this company, he has also invested in several properties around Lagos.

Recognitions

Chief Razaq Akanni Okoya has earned and received several awards and recognitions over the years. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award of Business Entrepreneur by ThisDay Newspapers, an award which was presented to Okoya by Bill Clinton, Former President of United States of America.

He was awarded the Golden Award for Quality by the Nigerian Institute of Standards, and also holds the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) honour from the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He is said to be one of Nigeria’s richest, though his net worth cannot be confirmed since his companies are not listed on the Stock Exchange.

In a recent interview, he was asked his thoughts on formal education, having achieved so much with only his primary education and he said, “I have nothing against education. But at times, education gives people false confidence. It makes people relax, trusting in the power of their certificates rather than in working hard. I knew I wanted to be rich, and I knew I had to work very hard”

In January 2020, the industrialist turned 80 amid much fanfare. He had this to say; “My prayer is to enjoy good health, long life and leave the legacy of my industry behind as I want Eleganza to outlive me and continue with my philosophy of philanthropy.”

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career. As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Profiles

Leo Stan Ekeh, the whiz who launched Nigeria’s first locally manufactured computers

Ekeh can be put in the bracket of visionaries who were quick to see that ICT would define the world in no distant time.  

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Leo Stan Ekeh

Rated as one of the top tech CEOs in Nigeria according to Ventures Africa, Leonard Stanley Ekeh has earned a name for himself through his contributions to Africa’s ICT space. With his tech start-ups dating back to the 80s, Ekeh can be put in the bracket of visionaries who saw that ICT would define the world in no distant time.

This week on Nairametrics Founders Profile, the spotlight is on Leo Stan Ekeh, as he is now popularly known.

Leo Stan Ekeh was born in Imo state on February 22, 1956 to a Dietician mum and Nurse dad. He had his early education in Owerri, and upon graduation from Holy Ghost College, Owerri, he emigrated to India where he obtained BSc. Economics from Punjab University.

READ: Start-up owners must believe in Nigeria to scale, says Ekeh, Zinox Boss

This step marked a turning point in his thought process, as he was exposed to the Indian economy which he described as ‘realistic’. He then shifted from his plans to own “the biggest transport company in Nigeria” and started thinking of more realistic business ideas, which would impact the Nigerian economy. He moved on to England where he bagged a Postgraduate degree in Risk Management at the Nottingham University.

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His return to Nigeria saw him spearhead the creation of several tech companies.

Task System Limited

This was Ekeh’s first start-up in Nigeria. The ICT solutions company commenced operations in 1989 to focus on desktop publishing and computer graphics. Over the last three decades, the company extended operations from Lagos to Port Harcourt and Abuja, implementing several ICT projects across the Oil & Gas, Telecoms, Manufacturing, and Public sectors.

The company has computerized 95 percent of Print media, Publishing houses, and Advertising agencies in Nigeria; with several outstanding industry awards to its credit, including Best Partner Award for Compaq, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard (HP) etc.

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READ: Ekeh, Zinox boss, may retire in 2021

Zinox Technologies Limited

ZInox Technologies is the brand which brought Ekeh to the forefront of Africa’s tech space and for which he is popular for. The company was founded in 2001 and became the first internationally certified branded computer OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in West Africa.

In addition, Zinox is the first to receive Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and also the first computer hardware manufacturing company and ICT integration company in Nigeria to receive ISO 9001-2000.

Zinox creates business solutions that uses new technologies to streamline systems, efficiently align, integrate, and maximise productivity. Its products are renowned for their security and IT infrastructure. The company has helped to revolutionize the electoral processes in several African countries like Nigeria, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

Zinox is the only local OEM partner of Microsoft and Intel corporation in Nigeria. It was recently rated by International Data Corporation (IDC) as the No.1 brand in terms of computer sales amongst local and international brands in Nigeria.

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Ekeh also launched Zinox Computers – Nigeria’s first internationally certified branded computers, which comes with a Naira sign and a power supply designed to be compatible with the country’s unstable power supply.

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READ: Konga’s turnover increases by 800%, as company claims to be self-sufficient

Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited

In 2008, Ekeh founded Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited at a time when credit card and e-payment infrastructures were still alien to Nigerians. The target of the start-up was to resolve funding issues for ICT projects and companies, through partnerships with strong international finance groups.

Within the next couple of years, Buyright Africa launched full operation to help Africans enjoy the benefits of emerging technologies and build technology strength that would allow her citizens, governments, and businesses compete favourably with other strong economies of the world.

Buyright Africa executes and funds ICT projects, equipment leasing, ownership scheme and other related ideas in Africa. It also offers ICT consultancy services and sales of ICT products, infrastructures, and digital tools to educational institutions and governments, through its partnership with international and local ICT companies.

Describing the vision, Mr. Mukoro Emomine, Managing Director of Buyright Africa said the company was out to work with manufacturers, in order to reduce the total cost of ownership of ICT equipment in Africa and also encourage usage.

READ: N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund to be rolled out before end of October – Minister

Konga.com

Konga.com was founded in July 2012 by Sim Shagaya as a third-party online marketplace, and a first-party direct retail in various categories of consumer goods and products.

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In February 2018, Zinox acquired 99% of Konga.com shares just a few months after Konga laid off over half its staff. Three months later, Konga merged with Zinox’s retail outfit – Yudala to form the biggest e-commerce company in Africa. Under the new merger, the brand name Konga was retained.

Other businesses

Leo Stan Ekeh also founded Technology Distribution Limited, Task Direct Limited and ITEC Solutions, using them to drive IT solutions and distribution in West Africa.

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He has also been involved with ICT Brokers, and ICT Connect. News recently made the rounds that Ekeh was the man behind the Healthplus takeover, but Ekeh distanced himself from such rumours,

“Till date, I do not have a kobo share in any of their investment vehicles, including a kobo share in Healthplus. Although, everyone has a right to invest in any company of his or her choice.”

CSR initiatives and recognitions

In line with his interest and devotion to the growth of IT in Nigeria, Ekeh launched the Computerize Nigeria Project in August 2000, to encourage development and sensitize Nigerians in the use of computers. He also launched the CANi Scheme, providing laptops to young Nigerians at a reduced price, with a repayment plan spread across 24 months.

Through his charity organisation, Leo Stan Ekeh Foundation, he has carried out other commendable humanitarian and philanthropic donations across the country.

He was bestowed with the ICON of Hope award by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1, 2002; Nigerian Science & Technology Achiever of the Year 2003; and Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) in 2004. Ekeh is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, and holds Life Membership, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs.

He holds Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Imo State University, Owerri; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and Federal University of Technology, Owerri and University of Jos. He is a Fellow of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Lagos; Federal Polytechnic, Idah; and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State.

Only 64 years old, Leo Stan Ekeh is still going strong and there is no telling what sector he might venture into next. He recently called for the declaration of a Tech Independence Day, and confidently said it is only a matter of time before Nigeria starts raising tech billionaires that would rival the likes of Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma.

Ekeh was worth $1 billion as of June, 2018 according to Business Insider by Pulse.ng.

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Profiles

Apple’s CEO’s package has totaled over $963.5 million since 2011

Tim Cook’s package has risen to close to a billion dollar in close to a decade.

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U.S stock futures trade flat, Apple regains $2 trillion market value, Apple iPhone 11, Tax battle: Apple challenges $14 billion court case , Apple to pay $500 million settlement in lawsuit over slow iPhones, Apple supplier Foxconn to reopen manufacturing base in China, Apple donates 10 million face masks to healthcare workers, App developers can now challenge Apple store guidelines 

Since 2011, when Tim Cook became CEO of Apple, his package has totaled over $963.5 million, according to an estimate from Equilar, an executive compensation firm.

Apple’s CEO collected his largest stock grant since 2011, which will reward him with large stacks of stocks through 2025, according to an SEC filing released yesterday.

Apple’s CEO will collect 333,987 units of restricted stock, that will vest as to one-third of the units, on an annual basis starting on April 1, 2023.

READ: Nestle’s parent company increases stakes in Nestle Nigeria in August

In a separate package, Cook will also vest 333,987 units of stock in 2023, which could double, if he meets targets related to Apple’s performance on the stock market.

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If Apple continues to impress as it is presently, Cook will collect 1,001,961 shares of Apple by 2025, similar to the grant of 1 million shares he received shortly after he became CEO in 2011.

READ: Nigerians in diaspora reveal their favourite Nigerian Stocks 

Why Apple is doing well?

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  • Recall, about two months ago, Nairametrics gave vital insights on why global investors and stock traders are placing more bets in growth stocks like Apple, thereby resulting in their astronomical rise in valuations, in spite of COVID-19.
  • These companies also have good macros in their businesses, partly due to low debts, high-profit margins, and the fact that more people are isolated and mostly working remotely on their iPhones and Macbooks.
  • Cook, 59, disclosed five years ago, that he plans to give most of his fortunes away. Already, he has gifted millions of dollars’ worth of Apple shares. His wealth could be lower, assuming he has made other undisclosed charitable gifts.

READ: App developers can now challenge Apple store guidelines 

Although if the world’s most valuable tech company underperforms, it’s also possible that the CEO will get none of such rewards.

At Tuesday’s closing price of $114.09, the maximum number of shares Cook could receive are worth $114 million. That amount will rise or fall with Apple’s stock price.

Tim has brought unparalleled innovation and focus to his role as CEO, and demonstrated what it means to lead with values and integrity,” Apple’s Board of Directors said in a statement.

READ: This is what you get if you buy the latest FGN Reopening Bond

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”For the first time in nearly a decade, we are awarding Tim a new stock grant, that will vest over time, in recognition of his outstanding leadership, and with great optimism for Apple’s future as he carries these efforts forward,” it stated.

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The stock grant suggests that Cook’s performance over the past decade is viewed highly by Apple’s board, which wants to make sure that he will be paid competitively through 2025, if he continues to be the CEO of Apple.

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Profiles

Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye 

Ugo Monye takes us through his journey to becoming one of the most popular fashion brands in Nigeria.

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Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye 

With the large number of business names being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on a monthly basis, it is easy to assume that starting and scaling a business in Nigeria is a piece of cake. In reality, however, it is a completely different story.

Even after surviving the first few years, scaling for expansion can be a hard nut to crack, particularly in an industry that is still unstructured.  

Ugochukwu MonyeFounder and Creative DirectorUgo Monye Fashion Company was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour, and shared some challenges of scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry.  

READ: Konga CEO targets $10 million daily turnover by 2024

He observed that one challenge entrepreneurs have to face in the industry while trying to upscale is the shortage of manpower. 

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“No one wants to work for anybody. People don’t want to be part of another person’s success story, because everyone feels they can as well float whatever it is you are doing. This is part of the reasons the industry lacks structure, and still not fully developed, he noted 

Even when one employs a staff, they only work a short while before they start contemplating how to leave and replicate your businessIn my line of business, the result is many small fashion businesses with few (if any) outstanding brands.  

There is much room for specialization across the value chain, but people cannot specialize, because of the absence of a structure,” Ugo added.    

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READ: Embattled MTN pursues out-of-court settlement with CBN

Discovering Ugo Monye 

Ugo grew up with a mother who owned a fashion business, so he picked interest in fashion early enough.  However, he did not wish to pursue this line, as the realities at the time did not present the fashion industry as a mouth-watering alternative to other well-known professional lines.  

“At that time, there was no glory in being a tailor or a fine artist, he explained.  

His parents wanted him to read Fine and Applied Art in the UK, and hone his skills in Fine Arts, but he refused, opting instead for a course in Business Administration so that he could go into importation business upon graduation. Exposure and knowledge soon showed him that often, a person’s passion and calling had to cross paths.  

He started coming up with creative designs and clothing ideas, drawing inspiration from the things around him in the university.  

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READ: Buying signal, Bitcoin whales with 1000 BTC or more continue to rise

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One holiday, Ugo went home and decided it was time to bring the ideas to reality. He linked up with a couple of tailors that worked with his mother, and using some of the old machines still available in the house, they brought the first Ugo Monye clothing designs to life.  

At that time, the business operated with the name CIUCI (a word which he derived from the initial letters of his five siblings), later changing to Ugo Modern Design, before he decided to just stick with his name, Ugo Monye 

He continued with his designs through his university daystill the end of his one-year mandatory service – NYSC, after which he got a job with a Strategic Consulting company. It only took a short while before Ugo realized that, as much as he was earning more than some of his peers at the time, there was no sense of fulfillment in what he did. He turned in his resignation and decided to go all-in on fashion designing. He attended a fashion school to hone his skills further.   

READ: How NNPC saved $3 billion from arbitration 

All hands on deck 

The fashion industry is not an easy place to start, and anyone starting out in the space must be ready to play all the required roles. In this industry, Ugo became a designer, tailor, marketer, brand promoter, and every possible role as he strove to get things rolling.  

“It is not just easy to get people to do these things, because the industry has not attained a structural level, where a person will decide right from school, that he wants to work as a designer with this company, as we see in other sectors, 

There is also the tendency for people to feel that they don’t have a serious job because they are tailors, and sometimes feel ashamed to identify as one. Things are gradually changing as people are beginning to identify with the industry, and this brings hope for more growth in the sector.  

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Monetizing a fashion company takes different forms, designing, clothes making, selling, and even consulting.  

Ugo says that as a brand, the Ugo Monye brand is more about details, “There has to be that touch of finesse in the finishing, and in fact, we pay more attention to the parts of the clothes that people do not see. This is what stands you out from others. 

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READ: Ripple unlocks 1,000,000,000 XRP

A dream still in the process 

Though Ugo Monye has become a brand to be reckoned with among celebrities and notable personalities in the last decade, Ugo says that his dreams for the brand are still yet to be actualised. He sees his brand becoming a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, a brand that every fashion enthusiast would want to be identified with as the industry takes shape.  

“I am not yet wowed by anything I have experienced so far. There are quite a lot of achievements I have made with the brand, but it is still not up to what I dreamed of. There’s no short cut to anywhere that is worth going to,” Ugo concluded. 

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